Sedentary lifestyles connected to type 2 diabetes

People who regularly exercise may think that they are immune to type 2 diabetes risk, but new research shows that they may still be prone to the condition if their lifestyle is otherwise sedentary. 

Whether or not a person leads an active lifestyle is a distinct concept from getting regular exercise. An individual could choose to religiously go to the gym for a 30-minute workout each night after work, but if their job involves long periods of sitting and the rest of their free time is consumed by inactive activities, they may be described as having a sedentary lifestyle.

The new study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, is among the first to show that periods of regular exercise are not enough shield a person from type 2 diabetes. The findings suggest that people who live sedentary lifestyles may need to adjust the way they live to incorporate more activity into their daily routines.

For the study, researchers from the University of Missouri reviewed findings from previously published investigations that tracked participants' average daily number of steps. The results showed that those who took less than 5,000 daily steps were significantly more likely to develop chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes than those who took more than 10,000.

The findings were consistent regardless of whether a person spent time at the gym working out. The researchers said this shows that people need to work to become more active, regardless of the amount of exercise they get. This can be a relatively simple process, as everyday activities can be made more active.

They recommended walking down the hall to talk to a co-worker instead of sending an email or making time during the workday to take short walks. Simple changes likes these can add up to major reductions in a person's risk of type 2 diabetes.

"If people spend the majority of their time sitting, even with regular periods of exercise, they are still at greater risk for chronic diseases," said John Thyfault, who led the study. "If people can add some regular movement into their routines throughout the day, they will feel better and be less susceptible to health problems. In the long term, they may not see big changes in the mirror, but they will prevent further weight gain."

Over the last few decades, many people's jobs have come to involve far less physical activity. A recent study published in the journal PLoS ONE estimated that the average daily job-related energy expenditure dropped by about 100 calories over the course of the last 50 years, as more jobs now require working at a computer rather than any type of physical activity.

Just 100 calories may not sound like much, but over the course of a career, it can add up. This is why individuals may benefit from trying to squeeze more physical activity into their days. Doing so could drastically cut their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.